DANBURY, Conn. – Farooq Kathwari, CEO of Danbury's Ethan Allen Interiors, and his wife Farida, have donated $1 million to endow the Honors Program at Western Connecticut State University.
The Connecticut State Colleges & Universities Board of Regents for Higher Education approved the gift, allowing the program to be renamed the Kathwari Honors Program.
The Kathwaris' gift will allow the program to expand from its current size of 200 students to 500. Alumni Hall, the building that houses the program, will be renamed in honor of the Kathwaris' son, Irfan.
“Western has been part of our environment here,” said Kathwari, who is also a member of the WCSU Foundation Board of Directors. “I appreciate Western because it focuses on students who are not necessarily coming from well-to-do families. They are serious and they attend Western to make a good career for themselves. Helping them, to me, is important. It is to help well-deserving students.”
Kathwari also gave an endowment to WCSU during the 1990s for students who intended to teach in inner-city schools.
“The Honors Program is very important,” he added. “They are students who perform well and perhaps can use the extra help to further their education and careers. I believe these students will make a difference.”
WCSU President James W. Schmotter praised the donation.
“The Kathwari family and Western’s Honors Program are a perfect match,” said WCSU President James W. Schmotter. “Both epitomize dedication to excellence, recognition of the value of hard work, and commitment to making the world a better place. Farooq and Farida Kathwari’s generous gift not only honors their son Irfan’s memory; it also establishes a permanent foundation for educational experiences that will shape the lives of our Honors students.”
Kathwari said he decided to support WCSU in part because Ethan Allen has been involved with the university ever since Nathan Ancell moved the company headquarters to Danbury in 1972. The Ancell School of Business is named for the former Ethan Allen CEO.
Kathwari immigrated to the U.S. at 21 to attend graduate school, at night, at New York University, where he earned his MBA. Before graduating, he began selling crafts from Kashmir that were sent by his grandfather. While working for Rothschild Inc., he met Ancell, and they agreed Kathwari would join Ethan Allen, which today has annual sales exceeding $750 million.
Alumni functions currently housed in the building, along with the development, communications and related departments, will be relocated.
A celebration of the gift and a building dedication is planned for spring.
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